It is an honour and a privilege to be asked to speak here today at this commemoration to remember our comrade Seamus Costello, who in the words of Nora Connolly O’Brien, daughter of James Connolly, Seamus was “the only one who truly understood what James Connolly meant when he spoke of his vision of the freedom of the Irish people.” No better tribute could have been paid to Seamus and indeed sums up Seamus as an outstanding revolutionary who believed as Connolly did that there could be no national liberation struggle without the class struggle. And that stands true today. Comrades, we in the Republican Socialist Movement passionately believe that the class and national liberation struggle are one. And we should all follow the example laid before us by James Connolly and Seamus Costello of making the goals of national liberation and socialism a reality. It is important for us as Republican Socialists to keep the memory of the man alive and indeed carry his vision of a better Ireland forward, for ourselves, and future generations.
In 1974 Seamus and other republican socialists formed the Irish Republican Socialist Party in an attempt to build a party of the Irish working class and with the formation of the Irish National Liberation Army, he saw this as the vanguard of the anti-imperialist struggle to end British rule in Ireland. Seamus saw capitalism, whether native or foreign, as much the enemy of the working class as British imperialism. Comrades, we must oppose capitalism with as much vigour as we oppose British rule. That means organising a real revolutionary party, involving ourselves in our communities, our trade unions and embracing all the people of this island under the banner of class unity.
On this occasion of the 36th anniversary of Seamus’ assassination, we also take the time to remember all other fallen comrades and volunteers of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement who gave their lives in the struggle to make the vision of Seamus Costello a reality. We also take this opportunity to send greetings to our IRSM comrades in Portlaoise Prison and indeed to all republican prisoners.
Seamus Costello, along with others, established the Republican Socialist Movement in 1974 at the height of the struggle against British imperialism and severe economic hardship across the island. The Ireland that Seamus grew up in enjoyed none of the democratic rights envisioned by republicans in the Easter proclamation or the democratic program. Seamus joined the IRA and Sinn Fein at an early age and devoted his life to achieving national self-determination and democracy for the people of Ireland. However it was during his time as an internee in the Curragh that Seamus and others defined the way forward for the Irish Republican struggle.
He instigated and developed the resurgence in “Connolyite” republicanism and pulled republicanism not only to the left, but directly into the everyday lives of the people of Ireland. When Seamus, as Connolly had done, made the connections between the struggle for independence and social issues, he made the Irish republican struggle relevant for the working class in Ireland. Seamus had a powerful gift of analysing the problems that the people of Ireland faced and offered attractive and radical alternatives to them.
Comrades, we all here today have a responsibility not just to remember our fallen, but to reaffirm our own commitment to the Republican Socialist ideals espoused by Seamus Costello. Seamus’ most quoted battle cry of ”I Owe My Allegiance To The Working Class” resonates today. The Irish Working Class in the past number of years has come under an unprecedented attack as a result of the International crises of capitalism, a process of radical realignment of the productive forces in Ireland, across Europe, and indeed the World. It is the Working Class who are being made to suffer the consequences of this realignment through mass unemployment and emigration, attacks on hard won conditions of employment rights, an endless cruel policy of Austerity, and Health and Education cut-backs affecting most harshly the most vulnerable sections of Irish society. If we are to follow Seamus, then now more than ever we should be redoubling efforts to make inroads into the consciousness of our own class. It is our own people, our own working class families and communities who are under attack and are being forced to shoulder the consequences of the failings of Capitalism. The material reality for working class communities across Ireland today is there for all of us to see. It is therefore hard sometimes to understand the apathy and lack of fight that apparently affects the working class today. Where is the fight-back? we hear people ask. The Working Class, as has often been the case in history, has been beguiled by nationalism, organized religion and other base lowest common denominator cultural distractions. These ideological devices help to keep the Working Class from realizing that it is they who produce wealth, and they themselves who deserve the fruits of their own labour.
Comrades, Karl Marx thought us that consciousness is a reflection of the political economy. A person’s thoughts tend to be shaped by his or her political and economic circumstances. He famously wrote, “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”
Comrades, the memory and example of Seamus Costello implores us to enter the field of consciousness among the Working Class and engage in ‘the Battle of Ideas’. This is a battle that we are consistently losing, and we can no longer continue to do so if we want to bring about Revolutionary Social change in the grand traditions of Costello and Connolly. Breaking into people’s consciousness and forging a politically conscious Working Class agenda is the task in front of us as a Revolutionary Party. This is not a task that we have to enter into blindly. The path is illuminated by the example of Seamus Costello, who showed us the way. While we have often floundered and found our way blocked, lessons from the past can help us overcome any obstacle that stands in the way of our movement and the emancipation of the Working Class, let me quote Rosa Luxemburg to emphasize the point: ‘‘The Working Class demands the right to make its mistakes and learn the dialectic of history. Let us speak plainly, Historically, the errors committed by a truly revolutionary movement are infinitely more fruitful than the infallibility of the cleverest central committee”.
The causes of the economic injustice in the Ireland of today are the same causes which created the problems of poverty and inequality that the Ireland of Seamus Costello suffered. These said causes are the Capitalist Mode of Production and its inherent contradictions.
The answers to these can be found in the radical thinking and analysis of Seamus Costello and if we apply his analysis and vigorously pursue them we are on the right road. Our task first is to liberate our class from the false consciousness which currently binds it to the status quo. The Neoliberal/Capitalist consensus, spouted daily by mass media outlets which so poisons the consciousness of our class needs to be smashed. We can do this by winning people over to Republican Socialist ideals. Seamus Costello provided the template, it is up to ourselves to follow his example by throwing ourselves into the daily struggle. Comrades, strike a blow for the working class, and do it with confidence and passion as Seamus did. Seamus had a passion for the Irish struggle, which he saw as inseparable from the struggle for working class emancipation. He was able to inspire those around him to devote their time and energy to the struggle with this passion.
Comrades, we know the problems that we face. Capitalism is again on the ropes and this will affect us all but we must use this situation to benefit the working class. We must be ready to take advantage and to promote socialism as a real and viable alternative to the boom and bust of capitalism. Seamus has left us a radical politics and a legacy to build upon. He has left us a vehicle in the IRSM with which to carry those ideas. It is up to us to show some of Seamus´ passion for change and start to put things right.
Inspiration and hope are all around us as the international Working class are showing real signs of awakening from their slumber. Working class struggles and fight backs have been particularly ferocious over recent years in Greece and Spain, the Middle East rising against Western backed tyrants, and more recently this year through mass struggles emerging in Turkey and Brazil. Cuba and Venezuela also continue to give living examples of alternatives to capitalist domination and exploitation. Id like to finish by quoting a few lines from the Venezuelan revolutionary and folk singer Ali Primera, poetic words that Seamus Costello was the living embodiment of through his Revolutionary Life :
Enough of the Hypocritical thinking
Enough of the stupidity
With which they send us
We will raise our backs forever
We will destroy the whip
With which they mark us
Farmers: For your own land
Workers: for your own factory
Students: For your own ideas
We are searching for that which will emancipate us
We will dry the sweat from our foreheads
While we seek the sun through the clouds
We are seeking with joy
The Marvellous Sun of Emancipation
We are seeking with exhilaration
The Wonderful sun of the Revolution.
Comrades, above all, take Inspiration from the Revolutionary Life of Seamus Costello.
Smash imperialism and smash capitalism!
Onwards to victory, comrades!